‘Tis the Season to Spread Enmity?

Some responses to Jeff T. Green and his thoughtfully timed Christmas gift to the world. Along with ‘Tis the Season to Spread Enmity? and ‘Tis the Season: Good Will to Men published in Public Square this week, I can’t resist holding up this thoughtful response from Brother Michael Peterson posted in the Salt Lake Tribune public comments to the article in question. Despite all this accusation and acrimony, I say with Ebebezer Scrooge’s nephew Fred, ” have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round…as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle…I say, God bless it!”

Not only is this Tribune article highly biased and one-sided—a disappointment—it lacks breadth and depth. It fails to tell the full story, but it does manage in its effect to denigrate The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leaders. 

What you [at the Tribune] have merely done is give a loud audience to a group who wish to speak out against the Church—with no fair response or full context whatsoever.

1. The mere fact that someone wealthy and “successful” by societal standards leaves The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is meaningless—carries zero weight. If it did, then we could and would immediately point to the opposite—reports like one I read recently about ten of the most wealthy Latter-day Saints in business, all of whom are faithful, with strong testimonies, and have not left the faith. (J. Willard Marriott, Jr., David Neeleman, the late Jon Huntsman, Joel Peterson, Mitt Romney, Alan Ashton, Nolan D. Archibald, the late Larry H. Miller, and the list goes on and on. …)

2. Mr. Green clearly set this up to be a “splash” intended to bash and denigrate the Church and its leaders— coordinating with family members for a single announcement, along with interviews with the Tribune designed for effect—leading to subsequent immediate disbursement to the wire services and presumptuously writing to President Nelson and then releasing the language, etc. When in reality, by his own admission, Mr. Green himself has for all intents and purposes been out of and divorced from the faith for a decade. So other than his obvious ax to grind, what does he really have to say at this point? Not much…

3. Mr. Green criticizes The Church of Jesus Christ in familiar ways— “bearing down against the Church” (Alma 1:3) —apparently objecting to the degree to which it is self-reliant and independent, walking its own talk. I for one am profoundly grateful that our church has significant reserve funds to maintain its independence now and in the future, enabling it to provide for the maintenance and support of a growing global faith and its mission. And considering future uncertainties—witness COVID and its variants and other global financial insecurities staring us in the face—the wisdom of the Lord in inspiring our leaders to prepare for future difficulties is more evident than ever. It’s encouraging. And if the Church simply let all reserve funds sit and did not invest them, that would be irresponsible money stewardship by any professional standard—can this be denied? Witness the wise management of resources of the best of many other large organizations. And the Church’s prudent use of its resources to help the needy are legendary—except among critics in our midst who have a demonstrable angst against the Church to begin with and seem to be on the lookout for things to criticize.

4. One underlying theme among some cited in this article is that they began “scrutinizing” Church history and subsequently fell into doubts. This belies the ultimate true reality for most active members of this Church. I for one, among many, have not only “scrutinized” this history, but I’ve also been studying Church history for thirty years and my faith and testimony have only increased. I love it. Historian Richard Bushman said that the closer you are to the original documents and first-hand sources, the greater the Prophet Joseph appears. How true. Issues of the First Vision, Plural Marriage, etc. are not only explainable in common sense terms (to those willing to listen), but the doctrines surrounding such issues hold up under scrutiny and need not damage the faith of anyone. There is nothing in real, genuine Church history that would compel or necessitate a person in good conscience to leave the faith.

(And if that last statement impels a critic to throw out a “Gish gallop” (a long list of Church history items designed to deceive and distort and denigrate) every item can be easily knocked down, so don’t bother. I have found, after much interaction, that the critics lack logic, reason, facts, science, and true history in their attempts to persuade against the faith. Their claims against the Church and its leaders don’t hold water, don’t add up, and fall apart under fair examination, every time.)

5. The Church’s wise and caring approach, outreach, teachings, and love toward the LGBT+ issues and community is not explainable in a soundbite—yet biting soundbite criticism is the norm for those who attack the faith on these issues. It’s not fair or right. Our Church believes in the eternal family and laws of virtue and chastity—sexual purity before marriage and fidelity afterward. That came from God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, not in response to a social or cultural situation. And we believe in loving all of God’s children—including those in the LGBT+ community. Those who claim that the Church—or BYU for that matter—has marginalized them or demonstrated a lack of charity, we would ask to re-evaluate—as many are either mistaken, misled, or are placing their own bias and interpretation upon the Church’s doctrines and practices and interactions with those with same-gender attraction. If some have been offended, the offense has not been intended. Instead, love and peace—along with faithfulness to God’s loving commandments—are the desired guiding principles.

6. By the admission of more than one person in the article about Mr. Green, they left the faith after drifting away. That’s what happens when we allow ourselves to drift. Our hearts go out to them. Many have come back and continue to do so—because the gospel of Christ and the Church are in fact true, the true Church of Jesus Christ. All are invited and welcome to return who have stepped away.

So you can do better than the latest “announcement” du jour critical of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You would think the Salt Lake Tribune would take a more balanced approach rather than allow itself to become a house-organ-for-a-day to those who wish to attack our faith. 

10 thoughts on “‘Tis the Season to Spread Enmity?

  1. “You would think the Salt Lake Tribune would take a more balanced approach rather than allow itself to become a house-organ-for-a-day to those who wish to attack our faith.”

    Why would anyone that has read the Trib ever think that?

  2. Well done.

    The SL Trib is proving daily that it is true to the roots of its 1870 founders who intended their new publication to oppose the restored Church. Along the way they have developed a faithful audience of acolytes and devotees that appreciates and finances their brand of journalism, complete with shielding the misdeeds and ugly undersides of some of their favorite informants and champions.

    No wonder some call it the SL Fib.

  3. The coordinated coverage press release is self-serving politically-correct virtue-signaling at its finest:

    “Attention all current and future business partners, investors, employees, customers, and political supporters: I am officially no longer a member of that racist, homophobic, misogynistic cult.”

    It’s as if he’s either going to start a new business venture, or run for office.

    @Jacob, aren’t church apologists at a point where you could borrow Dan Peterson’s response to the so-called CES Letter and just say: “Asked and answered. Here are the links….” ? It would save you a lot of time and typing.

  4. Imagine if the man with many possessions who refused to follow Jesus was used as a justification for Jesus being a false prophet.

  5. Jacob, would you say to the face of your sincere friends who are thinking of, or have stepped away “There is nothing in real, genuine Church history that would compel or necessitate a person in good conscience to leave the faith.”? I think that would be an unkind misjudgment of their sincere journey. How can you truly discount the sincere, prayerful and painful searching that so many have made that ended up for them not being able to fully reconcile some of the truth claims? How can you judge their “good conscience”? When you first started writing for M* a few years ago you seemed to advocate a lot for empathetic understanding of differences of opinions in an effort to bring people together for productive dialogue. Sadly, your statement in this post seems to have jettisoned that objectve.

  6. KarlS, Jacob Hess is quoting Michael Peterson here, so it is not Jacob’s statement but Michael Peterson’s.

    But in any case the statement that “there is nothing in real, genuine Church history that would compel or necessitate a person in good conscience to leave the faith” seems to me to be one of the mildest, most unobjectionable statements one could make about LDS Church history and current faith journeys. Notice the use of the words “compel” and “necessitate.” There are hundreds of millions of Catholics who know all about many of the much more objectionable historical facts about the Catholic faith, yet they do not feel *compelled* to leave their faith. In the same way, one can study LDS church history regarding, for example, people of African descent and the priesthood and easily decide that this does not *compel* you to leave a Church that does so much good in our evil world. So, it seems to me you are trying really, really hard to find something — anything — by which to be offended in Jacob’s post. In fact, you are straining at a gnat but swallowing a camel.

  7. “How can you truly discount the sincere, prayerful and painful searching that so many have made that ended up for them not being able to fully reconcile some of the truth claims?”

    Here’s how:

    Every reader of history has to choose who to believe. Not just which parties, pro vs anti, but what meaning or interpretation to put on both the claims and the events. That includes both the disputed claims/events and the undisputed claims/events.

    I’ve been reading church history off and on for 39 years. It all boils down to whose claims and whose explanation/interpretation you choose to believe.

    I’ve never come across anything that I did not find a reasonable rejoinder or explanation for.

    At first it was easy, because most critics’ claims are either twisted/out-of-context/”spun” versions of the history or outright lies. Some are just plain “mind-reading”.

    Then some of it gets complicated when some insiders turned out to be bad actors such as Bennet.

    Then some of it gets sad when you read of personal failures on the part of some individuals.

    Some of it gets interesting when the rejoinder is “yes, that happened, but that was not a bad thing when you take into account the rest, or see the bigger picture.”

    The main thing I “put on the shelf” for many years was what I call “Joseph’s polygamy vs Brigham’s polygamy.” And then a few years ago, Meg Stout’s book “Reluctant Polygamist” cleared it up for me.

    And here’s the crux that (apparently you and) those who think “history” can validate or invalidate religious truth claims don’t realize….

    historians are mere after-the-fact detectives who can’t help but put their own spin on the evidence they encounter.

    They’re great at digging up documents of who said what. But they don’t have access to “Truth” with a capital T. They can only compare, contrast, correlate, look at consensus/agreement, etc. The “evidence” is still mostly words/testimony of people who may either have had malign intent, or didn’t know/understand everything that was going on, or didn’t understand the motives of the actors, or didn’t see the big picture.

    The bottom line is everyone has to choose who to believe, and what interpretation/spin to believe.

    The other BIG assumptions we all make are: “Is this something that God would command, approve of, or allow?” We all have pre-conceptions of “what God would do?” and it is a stumbling block that keeps many people away from religion entirely.

    Many good people are so steeped in the idea that true Christianity must comport with 4th century creeds, that they can’t begin to consider a religion that does not accept those creeds. And that, itself, is either a choice, or a programmed-in assumption which people don’t realize they have.

    Net, or TLDR:

    “There is nothing in real, genuine Church history that would compel or necessitate a person in good conscience to leave the faith” is true because everyone still has to choose who to believe and whose spin/interpretation to believe. That choice may require challenging one’s own pre-conceived assumptions, which admittedly can be difficult.

  8. I would agree almost 100 percent with Bookslinger’s comment. I would only add one more “interesting” category. That being: Yes, there was a mistake made – because the Church leaders could not understand God’s will due to their own lived experiences/beliefs/circumstances. The rejoinder is that human mistakes do not invalidate God’s work (if such mistakes could invalidate God’s work, God’s work here on Earth would have long since ceased).

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